What Vintage Means

As part of the heartwish manifesto, I often mention “vintage inspired” or vintage designs. What does this mean? If you’re thinking that “vintage” originally referred to wine and nothing but wine, you’re right.

But, in this case we’re talking about how we typically relate to the idea of vintage. Today it means something valuable, aged to a warm ripeness and quality, of another era, something with an aura of romance, and an item worth keeping. Vintage can mean evocative of another time that we wish we had lived in, perhaps.

Granted, vintage can be a confusing and over-used term. And the majority of my jewelry design, at the present time, involves the use of newer materials, as quality vintage is getting harder to find. My style is more often what I call ‘vintage inspired’, as I try to recapture the feeling of some of these older styles.

At times, I buy stones from reputable sellers, and the stones are  called “vintage”. What this means in terms of a stone/gemstone (that is actually quite ancient) is that the stone was cut and polished for use in the jewelry trade many years ago. Perhaps it was part of the merchandise sold in a bead store in the 1960’s; perhaps it is pre-WWII stock from a source and country unknown.

a slab of “vintage” carnelian

Perhaps the jeweler’s materials were sourced from an old storage warehouse that was closed for decades and then re-opened to a buyer. (that is very fun to find, especially when it is in the original packaging!)

In any case, it can mean–on the positive side–a particular color or pattern of stone that has become rare, as it was mined from a source that was depleted or is no longer available. It increases the possibility that you are getting a stone that has not been tampered with by modern technology. (i.e. dyed, heated, radiated, etc.) On the negative side, this might result in some of the stones being poorly drilled or cut (old techniques) or dings, nicks and some other form of abrasions due to the packaging/strands of product being over-handled for years.

Other components I love to find, whenever possible, are old rhinestones, vintage Swarovski crystals, earring or brooch parts, etc. I particularly love old heavy brass chain, and vintage buttons! If I use any vintage components that have a sometimes mysterious point of origin, where possible I attempt to give the best description I can find.

More of my vintage inspired designs will be posted in the future. In the meantime, here are a couple examples of how I use vintage components:

Quality old jeweler’s stock of slab carnelian: Necklace: Carnelian Splendor
Pre-World War II glass beads: Necklace: Vintage Golden Crystals and Pearls
Vintage carved medallion: Bracelet: Autumn Fern

Quality can vary, and in the case of resale, this is important.

This particular earring–a retro beauty marked with the well-known Les Bernard stamp–I decided not to resale.

I loved the orphaned earring, and decided to keep the patina’d gold finish as is. (a lot of Les Bernard gold was actually 18k plated) I had planned to use the earring for a more elaborate beaded project, but after bringing it home, on closer inspection found it had some flaws from age (they look like pepper spots) that made me uneasy about using for a sale-able piece.

So I went for a simple solution. And one I will enjoy wearing, I’m sure!

Here’s a few tidbits about Les Bernard and his line of jewelry that you may enjoy:

Les Bernard Jewelry, by Illusion Jewels


Extracted from here:
‘Les Bernard jewellery brand grew out of Vogue, founded in 1936 by Harold Shapiro. The Shapiro family sold their share of Vogue in 1962 and son of Harold, Bernard, and designer Lester Joy opened a new company “Les Bernard inc.” in 1963. A pioneer in the field of costume jewelry of high class design, Les Bernard created innovative decorations of crystal, glass, crystal, enamel, marcasites, silver and precious metal alloys. Those who once acquired decorations by Les Bernard, know that as a rule they are all of high quality….made in a variety of styles from Art Deco to Egypt.’

And here’s a couple more examples of how I like to use vintage components in bead embroidery:

This is a resin cabochon from the Art Deco era; bead embroidered into a setting of natural bamboo round beads and brass toned glass seed beads.

A vintage onyx clip on earring that lost its mate long ago… I loved the brass detailing on the sides, and wanted it to be seen. So… decided to use it as a cabochon center for a bead embroidery pendant.